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PM's Presser: Swedish PM, Speeding Nats & The NZQA

PM's Press Conference - Monday, 14 February 2005

Swedish PM, Kyoto, Speeding Nats, NZQA & Moribundity

By Kevin List

In This Edition:
Road Safety and Attacks On Police Performance
The Botched Scholarship Exam and the NZQA
PM Denies Her Govt Is Moribund
The Kyoto Protocol Championed By The Swedish Prime Minister

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The NZ and Swedish PMs Appeared To Like The Cut Of Each Other's Jib


Road Safety and Attacks On Police Performance

Last week the police and their minister, George Hawkins were the main target of opposition attacks regarding deficiencies in the 111 system. Many of the parliamentary attacks implied that too many resources were being directed at keeping the road toll down by concentrating on ticketing dangerous drivers.

Over the weekend National Party MP, and senior adviser to Dr Brash, Murray McCully even went so far as to accuse the police on his internet blog, of "harassing law abiding citizens who travel at 11 kms over the speed limit."

Given the National Party's tough stance on law and order, NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark seemed surprised by Mr McCully's apparent cavalier attitude to road safety.

"It's ironic isn't it that they [the National Party] spent the last four days of parliamentary time as an opposition claiming the police didn't do their duty well enough and now Murray McCully is accusing them of doing it rather too well," she said.

An example of road carnage

Given the tone of Mr McCully's words the Prime Minister also suggested that Mr McCully may occasionally put the pedal to the metal.

"It suggests it [exceeding the speed limit] might be a regular practice of his," the Prime Minister replied when asked what she thought of Mr McCully's attack on the police.

The attacks on Police Minister George Hawkins in Parliament last week were described by the Prime Minister as "schoolyard bullying", and she accused opposition politicians of taking advantage of Mr Hawkins speech impediment which was caused by a stroke in the 1990s.

"When you have a disability it can be a problem. I sometimes wonder how you'd get on in this Parliament if one were blind or partially deaf, disabilities that people handle in other Parliaments. The bottom line for me is that we've got a Minister of Police who is there when crime is at its lowest for 21 years."


The Botched Scholarship Exam and the NZQA

The embarrassing botch up concerning a small section of the nations brightest seventh formers looked like it was about to be given full prime ministerial attention.

"I have yet to get to the bottom of why when NZQA knew there was great variation, this was not brought to the attention of the responsible Ministers. When this was first brought to the Government's attention the reaction I had was that the marking should be done again and moderated across subjects. When I found that the papers had all been returned and no copies kept that clearly wasn't a practical option. I think there is a whole range of issues that NZQA has to face up to."

Whilst the Prime Minister was openly scathing of the way the scholarship exams had been handled she defended the NCEA system.

"This issue has been about scholarship. In some of the public comment there has been a tendency to blur what happened in NZEA Level Three with scholarship. It is not NCEA specifically that has been called into question but the administration, manner and marking of the scholarship exam."


PM Denies Her Govt Is Moribund

A Speech by Green Party, Co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons had implied that New Zealand's fifth Labour Government had become somewhat moribund. The slightly niggly words of the Green Co-Leader were dismissed by the Prime Minister

"My quip this morning was that Jeanette must have had a lot of fun writing that speech, but of course I don't think it bears any resemblance to our level of energy, activity and enthusiasm or indeed the general policies [of the Government]."


The Kyoto Protocol Championed By The Swedish Prime Minister

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At the start of the press conference the Swedish Prime Minister, Gõran Persson answered a few questions from the press gallery. Mr Persson strongly defended the Kyoto protocol in that time and saw New Zealand as an ecological ally.

"We have not only the same opinions about how to act in multi-lateral institutions but also how we look upon development itself, the ecological perspective – the climate change for instance," he said.

Mr Persson considered that whilst Kyoto was a step in the right direction the world needed to look further than just this one important treaty.

"In a couple of days the Kyoto protocol will be introduced and start to work and everyone who has dealt with political processes knows that now we have to take the next step. This Kyoto protocol will end in 2012. There is a need for like-minded countries to negotiate around what will follow the Kyoto protocol."

He remained optimistic that the gas guzzling, consumer driven economy of the United States would not remain out in the ecological cold forever.

"Hopefully in the next round it will be possible to convince the United States, Australia and also countries like Brazil. The United States is of course the key country. They [the US ] on their own are responsible for 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, therefore it is necessary to have them on board."

The Swedish PM saw a glimmer of hope in the fact that during President Bush's inauguration speech there was a mention of hybrid cars. Mr Persson considered rather optimistically that this may be, "a sign, although I'm not sure", of progress to a more ecologically aware US administration. Mr Persson was himself convinced of the need to act now rather than in ten or twenty years

"It will not be possible for politicians to say we can wait because people will say you can't wait - you [politicians] have to do something. Obviously if you listen to the UN climate change panel there is no doubt about what they are saying about the future."

*** ENDS ***

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